By Christine DeLozier,
Author of Diet for Great Sex: Food for Male and Female Sexual Health
It seems that the older we get, the more difficult it can be to have great sex. But why is this? Is it an inevitable part of aging? The short answer is no. Difficulty maintaining an erection is related to underlying medical conditions affecting blood flow to the penis, not how old you are. As men get older, they tend to have more medical problems, and therefore, more things get in the way of solid erections. The good news is that erectile dysfunction is entirely treatable and, in many ways, preventable.
For strong erections, men need three things: blood flow, healthy nerves, and a proper proportion of hormones such as dopamine and testosterone. When a man sees something he finds sexy, like his partner naked, his nerves send signals to the penis to relax the smooth muscle tissue. An influx of blood flow to the corpus cavernosum, the spongy tissue in the penis. This process is regulated in the brain by chemicals such as dopamine. Male arousal and sexuality, in general, are controlled by sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Lifestyle, poor diet, lack of exercise, and all other ways we abuse our bodies injure the physical structures involved in solid erections. In short, life causes damage to nerves, blood vessels, and the endocrine system.
Nerves and blood vessels are also injured by environmental pollutants, fatty, salty, sugary foods, and even heavy metals in the air we breathe. When these nerves are damaged, signals may be weak or slow, interfering with maintaining a full erection.
It is more likely that men will suffer from medical conditions affecting sex hormones such as testosterone as they get older. Type 2 diabetes, which becomes more prevalent as we age, causes insulin and leptin resistance, which disrupt sex steroids. This affects not only libido but all other aspects of sexual function, including erections. Type 2 Diabetes is also particularly damaging to nerves leading to and from the penis.
As we age, we accumulate fatty plaque deposits in our arteries. Unfortunately, the arteries of the penis are among the smallest in the body. For this reason, one of the first signs of cardiovascular disease is soft erections. This means that, long before symptoms of heart disease appear, men will experience a decline in blood flow to the genitals and weaker erections. The older we get, the more plaque accumulation is present in our arteries.